Pekin ducks are among the most popular duck breeds in the United States, and for good reason!
They are a multi-purpose duck breed that is an excellent source of meat, a consistent egg layer, and a friendly pet.
Whether you are looking to raise Pekin ducks as pets or for meat and eggs, here is everything you need to know about this popular breed.
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Though incredibly popular in the United States, the Pekin duck breed is originally from China.
From China, Pekin ducks were first imported to the United Kingdom in 1872.
It was not until March of 1873 that the first Pekin ducks reached New York City and rapidly became the most sought-after duck breed in the nation.
Unlike other duck breeds, all mature Pekin ducks are white.
Their ducklings, however, hatch with a yellow plumage that turns cream white at around 6-8 weeks. Unlike their feathers, their shanks and toes do not change color with age.
In addition to their creamy white plumage, Pekin ducks are also endowed with orange toes and shanks, and a deep-yellow beak.
Keep in mind that the ducks, especially hens, may develop black speckles as they age.
Pekins also have fluffier feathers than other species, which can make them look chubbier.
According to the American Poultry Association, Pekins are a heavy duck breed. The hens weigh 8-9 pounds, while drakes weigh 9-10 pounds.
At 20 inches tall, Pekin ducks have broad and long bodies that make them ideal sources of meat.
Their full-breasted nature makes the ducks excellent meat carriers, and hence a great choice for commercial use.
Peking ducklings may be small when they hatch, but they gain a lot of weight in just a short period. Pekin ducks weigh about 90% of their mature weight at only 7 weeks old.
This is quite impressive, considering that Pekins are not fully mature for several more months.
Pekin ducks are consistent egg producers, laying between 200 and 300 extra-large eggs a year.
Hens, however, do not start laying eggs until they are between five and six months old, and like other poultry birds, their laying cycle is adversely affected by cold weather.
Unlike chickens that lay eggs on a 26-hour schedule, Pekin hens will almost always lay eggs at either dusk or dawn, as long as there are 8 to 10 hours of daylight.
Because of this, invest in coop lighting when raising Pekin ducks to ensure consistent egg production, especially during winter.
Pekin duck eggs are white and weigh around three ounces. They are viable for consumption or incubation within ten days of laying.
As a multipurpose duck breed, Pekin ducks are also renowned for their prolific meat production, which makes them ideal for commercial use.
Their broad bodies help them pack a large amount of meat on their frame. Their rapid weight gain also reduces the cost of raising them.
Pekin ducks are ready for butchering at six weeks old, when they weigh as little as six pounds.
Thanks to their quick growth, Pekins are quite inexpensive to raise for meat.
Besides being beautiful, Pekin ducks are among the friendliest duck breeds.
They are non-aggressive, making them a great addition to your homestead. Their calm personality makes them great companions to your backyard flock.
Don’t shy away from petting your Pekins, especially if you are raising them as pets.
Pekins love physical touch and handling them at a young age will help them get used to humans.
Your hens may even enjoy belly rubs or eating treats from your hands.
While all duck breeds can be loud, Pekin hens have loud quacks and wouldn’t make great pets, especially if you have neighbors nearby.
You could opt for an all-drake flock, because they are equally friendly and make great pets. Drakes are also easier to maintain than hens.
One sure way to distinguish Pekin hens and drakes is by listening to their quacks. Pekins hens quack loudly, while drakes have quieter and raspier quacks.
Alternatively, you can identify drakes by looking for the drake feather or curled tail feather that is absent in females.
Pekin ducks have a relatively long lifespan, thanks to their hardiness. These flightless birds can survive in almost any climate and environment with little to no problems.
On average, domesticated Pekins live 8 to 12 years with proper care.
Male Pekins are more likely to outlive hens, since females are more prone to reproductive issues, such as egg binding. Such emergency issues may go unnoticed since many Pekins are bred primarily for meat.
Keep in mind the lifespan can vary from one variety of Pekin to another.
For example, wild Pekin ducks have a relatively short lifespan, since they must defend themselves from predators.
Pekin ducks are excellent foragers and obtain most of their nutritional needs by hunting small fish, tadpoles, frogs, insects, and bugs.
Since domesticated Pekins don’t have access to this prey, it is vital to feed them the right food to meet their dietary needs.
Some vital nutrients to consider when raising Pekin ducks include:
|Protein||Helps with muscle development, which is beneficial for meat production. Enhances egg production and overall egg quality.|
|Calcium||Supports strong bone development in ducklings, as well as the development of healthy eggshells.|
|Vitamin C||Helps with protein synthesis, supports a healthy immune system, and reduces stress.|
Since Pekin ducks are omnivorous, there is a wide range of nutritious foods you can offer your ducks, so they get the minerals and vitamins they need. Some of these foods include:
- Seeds, such as milo seeds
- Uncooked oats (quick or rolled)
- White or brown rice (cooked or uncooked)
- Grains, like barley and wheat
- Chopped vegetables
- Fruits, like grapes
While Pekins are omnivorous, there are certain foods that owners should not feed their ducks, since they have no nutritional value. These include:
It is advisable to feed starter pellets to ducklings since their digestive system is not developed enough to handle ordinary pellets.
Pekin hens are generally lackluster egg sitters. They are not selective about the eggs they choose to sit on.
Due to this lack of brooding instinct, it is advisable to invest in an incubator to expand your flock.
While Pekin ducks will enjoy roaming freely on your homestead, they need a dry and warm shelter at night or during inclement weather.
When designing a shelter for your ducks, keep in mind that ducks need more room than chickens.
This is to avoid overcrowding, ensuring that each duck has enough room to feed.
Similarly, invest in proper ventilation to ensure adequate airflow. This will help prevent any moisture or mud from forming.
In addition to ensuring that there is enough floor space for all your Pekins, it is vital to ensure that the floor is safe for your ducks to walk on.
Add a layer of sawdust or straw to protect your ducks’ feet and maintain a dry environment for them.
For owners with ducklings, consider a spot in your coop that is draft-free and set it up as your brooding area. Remember to have a heat source nearby to keep your ducklings warm.
Lastly, consider investing in lighting for your ducks’ shelter, especially if you are raising the Pekins for eggs.
Pekins ducks are considered a hardy breed that is largely disease-resistant. However, they still are prone to some health problems:
|Botulism||Consumption of decaying material found in stagnant water||Causes paralysis in the legs, neck, and wings|
|Duck Plague||Highly contagious virus||Greenish-yellow diarrhea, sluggishness, and ruffled feathers|
|Colibacillosis||Escherichia coli pathogen||Infects eggs and reduces hatchability|
|Avian Cholera||Bacterial Infection||Causes difficulty breathing, mucous discharge from mouth, poor appetite|
Whether you are looking to raise ducks for meat and eggs, or you’re just looking for a calm and friendly pet to spoil, Pekin ducks are a fantastic choice.
They are a hardy and low-maintenance breed with an exceptionally high yield.